Week of March 28, 2005
  Special Report

Site Selection Bonus Coverage of
the 2005 IAMC Spring Forum, Charleston S.C.

Zach: The Future
Isn't What It Used to Be
The more things change, the more
we must learn from the past, futurist says.

by RON STARNER, Site Selection Director of Publications

David Zach, Futurist

The problem with most business executives is that they pay more attention to things that change than to the things that don't, futurist David Zach told the IAMC Professional Forum in Charleston, S.C., March 23.
       "The world is about continuity — things that don't change," said Zach, who holds a master's degree in future studies from the University of Houston and who previously worked at Johnson Controls and Northwestern Mutual Life in environmental scanning and strategic planning. "You can be too certain about the future. The key is to ask, 'What doesn't change? What never, ever changes?' "
       Only when you answer these questions can you properly anticipate, and prepare for, the future, Zach said.
       Complicating the matter is the fact that most people today are so open to changing ideas and philosophies that they no longer recognize the constant truths of the universe, the futurist said. "We are too vulnerable to predictions of the future. Your mind can be ripped to shreds if it's constantly open to everything. The ability to open your mind is what's important," he noted.
       Another problem is that most people can't discern the differences between fads, trends and principles. "Fads are safe to ignore but can be used as tactical tools. Trends are always real and based on strategic factors," Zach said. "Principles are systematic and foundational. They seldom if ever change."
       Also, he cautioned, don't be so overwhelmed with information that you lose sight of what truly matters in life. "Only intuition can protect us in an age of information," said Zach. "There is money in fads, wealth in trends and life in principles."
       On the subject of coming changes relevant to corporate real estate, Zach advised his audience to prepare for the following trends:
  • Microchips will automate almost everything. By the year 2007, a standard microchip will contain one billion transistors. Radio frequency identification tags will be placed on almost every object: Washing machines, carpets, buildings, etc. "Shouldn't buildings be smart enough to take care of themselves?" he asked.
  • Workstations can be almost anywhere. "Because of the rise of wireless high-speed access, you will be able to carry your workstation with you and work with it anywhere," Zach noted. "Data doesn't need a location; it just needs access."
  • Computers will go head to head with humans. Citing Moore's Law (the capacity of a microchip doubles every 24 months). "Computer chips will reach the processing power of the human brain by 2022. By 2060, a single microchip could have the processing capacity of all human brains on the planet," Zach said. "In the future, the machines that make our products will actually be smaller than the products themselves."
  • China will become a global leader in industrial design. As more Chinese students acquire this type of education, they will become better equipped to design the products the world will use.
  • Machines increasingly will replace many skilled workers. "We are rapidly approaching what I call 'Generation A' — Generation Automation," he said. "Microchips will automate many higher level tasks that are now done by humans."

       To better prepare for this future, Zach encouraged his audience to remember five principles:
  • Relax. "Work is overrated. Get over your obsession with work," he advised.
  • Reconnect to your communities outside of work. "Go out for lunch," he said. "Stop letting the computer or the office become your lunch companion."
  • Don't just think outside the box; think into other boxes. "Think in multiple-point perspectives. Have conversations regularly with people who have other perspectives than your own."
  • Play with fads, work with trends and live by principles.
  • Make a time frame. "Children are the message we send into the future," said Zach. "Listen to the lessons of history, avoid the egotism of time and never forget how to play."

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